Friday’s ceremonial ribbon cutting of the new courthouse allowed many members of the public a first glimpse of the Sparks Justice Court’s new home. As Justices of the Peace Susan Deriso and Kevin Higgins thanked countless individuals who aided in the court’s new building, Court Administrator Janine Baker was holding back the tears that eventually crept out of her eyes.
Baker is one of three individuals who has been with Sparks Justice Court long enough to see its original location on B Street, its not-so-temporary housing on Greenbrae Drive and finally the Prater Way building.
“I cried when the Board of County Commissioners approved the lease for this building if that tells you anything,” Baker said Friday. “When we moved to Greenbrae, we thought ‘wow this place is huge’ and we knew it was temporary. It has been a rollercoaster just getting here. We are thrilled the way this project turned out and we couldn’t be happier.”
The new 28,000-square-foot facility was a vast improvement for the Sparks Justice Court when it moved to its new location in January. Both Higgins and Deriso agreed that though many new changes have been made in the day-to-day operations of the building the most significant difference is attitude.
“You can see the attitude of people coming in has changed,” Deriso said. “When people came into that courthouse it wasn’t a courthouse. It was just some building or some department, but it wasn’t a court. This truly feels like a courthouse and people act like it.”
Deriso said the new building also poses some new challenges for judges and court staff due to how much bigger the complex is. While the added space was necessary, Deriso said it will take some time for the staff to adjust to a new morale.
“We are kind of getting used to how the flow works and how you have to have a key everywhere you go,” Deriso said. “Starting new is like a new house so it rejuvenates you a little bit, but at the same time we were kind of like a little family in that old building. The clerks were really close to us and things were just different.”
Higgins said adjustments have been made or are in the making to really bring the history of the Sparks Justice Court to life. He said the first Justice of the Peace was named in 1904 and since then many judges who have come through have made an impact on the court’s legacy. He hopes the court will be able to pay homage to them in time.
“We have a conference room that is dedicated to Jack Lamberti who was a long time judge here,” Higgins said. “We are also trying to put up pictures of all the justices of the peace, which is turning out to be more difficult than you think. We are working on it but still needs some help.”
In addition to its new amenities, the justice court also has beefed up security allowing for four holding cells, a private meeting room, security surveillance room and 36 cameras inside. Deriso said that type of security did not exist at the Greenbrae Drive location and added that she does not question her security at all during the day.
“It is so much more secure and for staff there is another screener so they can come in and out safely and separately from the public,” she said. “I don’t even think about it. Sparks PD is right next door, everything is alarmed and so much more secure. Even the parking is secured for us here.”
Deriso said she feels the Sparks Justice Court will be located at the Prater Way location for "much longer than any of the justices plan to be around."